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Kansas governor vetoes ‘foreign threat’ land ownership bill

Gov. Laura Kelly called the "foreign adversary" legislation overly broad and said implementation of the bill could open up the state to constitutional violations.
Sherman Smith
Kansas Reflector
Gov. Laura Kelly called the "foreign adversary" legislation overly broad and said implementation of the bill could open up the state to constitutional violations.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a bill Friday that would have prevented the ownership of land "foreign adversaries." It was passed by the legislature in the midst of increasing fears of Chinese companies operating on Kansas land.

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly condemned a land property bill stemming from Republican fear of foreign country intrusion as overly broad and unconstitutional.

Kelly on Friday vetoed Senate Bill 172, which attempted to restrict “foreign adversary” companies’ real estate ownership in Kansas. The legislation would have blocked people and businesses from “countries of concern,” such as China and Iran, from acquiring nonresidential property within a 100-mile radius of Kansas military installations. Those already in the state would have to register with the attorney general and divest of the property unless granted an exemption.

“While I agree that it is important for our state to implement stronger protections against foreign adversaries, this legislation contains multiple provisions that are likely unconstitutional and cause unintended consequences,” Kelly said.

“Additionally, the retroactive nature of this legislation raises further serious constitutional concerns,” she said. “I am not willing to sign a bill that has the potential to hurt the state’s future prosperity and economic development.”

The bill was passed by the Legislature late into the session, following alarm over Cnano Technology USA, and increasing rhetoric against foreign companies on Kansas soil. The China-based company plans to locate a $94.7 million manufacturing plant in Johnson County to make liquid conductive paste used in products such as cellphones and vehicle batteries.

Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, said Kelly’s veto would leave Kansas vulnerable.

“I remain committed to protecting our military installations and ensuring that the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries do not compromise Kansas’s safety,” Carpenter said.

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, said Republicans in the Legislature would continue to focus on foreign threats.

“Foreign adversaries, such as China, have made their intentions toward the U.S. and our democracy abundantly clear. It’s shameful that our governor has chosen not to take those threats seriously, leaving Kansas’ critical infrastructure and military installments exposed,” Hawkins said. “Despite the governor’s apathy, we’ll continue to work to protect Kansas and its citizens from those foreign bad actors who wish to exploit land ownership loopholes.”

This story was originally published by the Kansas Reflector.

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